Immunizations

Every Year…

  • 3 million deaths are prevented
  • 400 million life years are saved
  • 750,000 children are saved from disability

…due to vaccines

What are Vaccines?

Vaccines contain preparations of weakened or dead bacteria or viruses that stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies against dangerous and sometimes deadly diseases. Vaccines reduce the risk of infection by working with the body's natural defenses to help it safely develop immunity to disease.

When bacteria or viruses invade the body, they attack and multiply. This invasion is called an infection, and the infection is what causes illness. After the immune system fights the infection, the body is left with a supply of antibodies that help recognize and fight that disease in the future.

Vaccines help develop immunity by imitating an infection without actually causing one. The immune system responds the same to vaccines as it does to a real infection and the resulting antibodies are able to recognize and fight the vaccine-preventable disease in the future.

After getting a vaccine, the body may exhibit minor symptoms, such as fever. Such minor symptoms are normal and should be expected as the body builds immunity.

Before vaccines parents in the U.S. could expect that every year: Because of vaccines, in 2011:

Polio would

paralyze 10,000 children

Polio was not seen

in the U.S.

Diphtheria would be the

most common cause of death

in school-aged children

Diphtheria was not seen

in the U.S.

Rubella would cause birth defects and developmental delays in as many as

20,000 newborns

Rubella was not seen

in the U.S.

Hib would cause

meningitis in about 15,000 children,

leaving many with permanent brain damage

The number of children with Hib-caused-meningitis was reduced to

2 cases

Whooping cough (pertussis) would

kill 8,000 children

, most of whom were less than one year of age

The number of Whooping cough (pertussis) deaths was reduced to

13 children

Measles would infect about 4 million children,

killing 3,000

The number of measles cases was reduced to 222 with

no deaths

To put this into perspective for you visually, here are graphs illustrating how the incidence of diseases rapidly decreased following the introduction of vaccines:

So Why Immunize?

As you can see, these diseases are now rare and some are not seen at all in our country because we have been vaccinating against them. However, it is important that we continue vaccinating for three reasons:

  • Some diseases are still so common (pertussis, influenza) that a choice not to get vaccinated is a choice to risk disease.
  • Some diseases continue to infect small numbers of children and adolescents (measles, rubella, Hib) and a drop in immunization rates would cause new outbreaks of disease.
  • Some diseases have been virtually eliminated from this country (polio, diphtheria), but are still prevalent in many regions of the world and could be imported by travelers or immigrants.

It's much like bailing out a boat with a slow leak. When we started bailing, the boat was filled with water. But we have been bailing fast and hard, and now it is almost dry. We could say, "Good. The boat is dry now, so we can throw away the bucket and relax." But the leak hasn't stopped. Before long we'd notice a little water seeping in, and soon it might be back up to the same level as when we started. Unless we can "stop the leak" (eliminate the disease), it is important to keep immunizing. Even if there are only a few cases of disease today, if we take away the protection given by vaccination, more and more people will be infected and will spread disease to others. Soon we will undo the progress we have made over the years.

Disease Eradication and Control

When a disease stops circulating in a region, it's considered eliminated in that region. Polio, for example, was eliminated in the Unites States by 1979 after widespread vaccination efforts. If a particular disease is eliminated worldwide, it's considered eradicated. Smallpox was the first disease, and so far the only infectious disease of humans, to have been eradicated. The smallpox vaccine was the first successful vaccine to be developed. After decades of worldwide efforts, smallpox was declared eradicated by the World Health Assembly in 1980. Efforts are ongoing to eradicate polio and in 2012, polio was only seen in 5 countries.
It is difficult to eradicate certain diseases for various reasons:

  • Some viruses, such as the influenza virus, mutate frequently and so it is difficult to provide one influenza vaccination that will protect an individual for life.
  • Some bacteria, such as pertussis, can infect a person more than once. For example, neither the pertussis vaccine nor the pertussis disease provide life-long immunity. Over time, immunity decreases.
  • Some diseases (malaria, rabies, yellow fever) infect or can be transmitted by insects or animals, so even if they were seemingly eradicated from humans, they could potentially be reintroduced to humans by another species.

For diseases that can't be eradicated and for diseases that haven't yet been eradicated, we can still control them (keep the water out of the boat) with vaccinations. For example if we can keep a person's immunity to pertussis high enough with a pertussis vaccine, then they won't get infected with pertussis.

What If We Stopped Vaccinating?

In 1974, Japan had a successful pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination program, with nearly 80% of Japanese children vaccinated. That year only 393 cases of pertussis were reported in the entire country, and there were no deaths from pertussis. But then rumors began to spread that the pertussis vaccination was no longer needed and that the vaccine was not safe, and by 1976 only 10% of infants were getting vaccinated. In 1979 Japan suffered a major pertussis epidemic, with more than 13,000 cases of whooping cough and 41 deaths. In 1981 the government began vaccinating with acellular pertussis vaccine, and the number of pertussis cases dropped again.

If we stop vaccinating here, diseases that are almost unknown would stage a comeback. Before long we would see epidemics of diseases that are nearly under control today. More children would get sick and more would die. For diseases such as measles and mumps, eradication is achievable. However, vaccination rates have decreased in some areas of the U.S. and we are starting to see an increased incidence of disease outbreaks.

Vaccinations are the most effective way to prevent infectious diseases.

Are vaccines safe?

Vaccines are held to the highest standard of safety. The United States currently has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in history. Years of testing are required by law before a vaccine can be licensed. Once in use, vaccines are continually monitored for safety and efficacy. The CDC and FDA continually work to make already safe vaccines even safer.

Immunizations, like any medication, can cause adverse events. However, a decision not to immunize a child also involves risk. It is a decision to put the child and others who come into contact with him or her at risk of contracting a disease that could be dangerous or deadly.

Our providers believe that the benefits of vaccines clearly outweigh their risks.

Family Health Care has found The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the CDC to be excellent resources for up-to-date and reliable information about the safety of vaccines.

Vaccine Safety Hot Topics: The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Are vaccines covered by my insurance?

Adults (19 and older)

  • Most vaccines for adults are covered under

    private insurance

    policies but some vaccines may have co-pays or deductibles. Please check with your insurance carrier for more information about your coverage.
  • Medicare

    covers flu, pneumonia and hepatitis B vaccines with no co-pays or deductibles. Shingles is covered with varying co-pays under the pharmaceutical portion of Medicare. Shingles vaccines are available at some local pharmacies.
  • In Washington State, some immunizations are covered for patients who have

    Medicaid

    under Family Medical. Visit http://www.parenthelp123.org/benefit-finder for eligibility guidelines and to apply online. Medicaid patients may also choose to self-pay for vaccines at Family Health Care.
  • Approximately 19% of U.S. adults ages 19-64 are uninsured and must pay for immunizations out-of-pocket. Call our office for more information on the cost of vaccines for patients who self-pay.

Pediatric (up through 18)

  • Since 1990, Washington State has maintained a universal childhood vaccine program, providing vaccines to all kids through age 18 regardless of income. This is done through a combination of state and federal funds. An administration fee is charged for the preparation and administration of vaccines, however that fee is usually covered by private insurance as well as Medicaid. Vaccines are typically administered during routine Well Child Checks.

Influenza (Flu) Vaccine

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine each year. Getting a flu vaccine is the first and most important step of protecting against this serious disease. *The flu vaccine does not protect against the "stomach flu". It protects against the influenza virus. A flu vaccine is needed every year because flu viruses are constantly changing. The flu vaccine is formulated each year to keep up with the flu viruses as they change. Most years, flu vaccines are available at Family Health Care around the first of September. As long as supplies last, we continue to offer the flu vaccine throughout the "flu season" which usually ends in April or May. Patients can walk-in to receive their flu vaccine without an appointment.



Content Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Immunization Action Coalition, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, World Health Organization, WHO: The Value of Vaccination by David E. Bloom, David Canning & Mark Weston

Family Health Care's Vaccine Policy

  • We firmly believe in the effectiveness of vaccines to prevent serious illness and to save lives.
  • We firmly believe in the safety of our vaccines.
  • We firmly believe that all children and young adults should receive all of the recommended vaccines according to the schedule published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • We firmly believe, based on all available literature, evidence, and current studies, that vaccines do not cause autism or other developmental disabilities. We firmly believe that thimerosal, a preservative that has been in vaccines for decades and remains in some vaccines, does not cause autism or other developmental disabilities.
  • We firmly believe that vaccinating children and young adults may be the single most important health-promoting intervention we perform as health care providers, and that you can perform as parents/caregivers. The recommended vaccines and their schedule given are the results of years and years of scientific study and data gathering on millions of children by thousands of our brightest scientists and physicians.
    We recognize that there has always been and will likely always be controversy surrounding vaccination. Indeed, Benjamin Franklin, persuaded by his brother, was opposed to smallpox vaccine until scientific data convinced him otherwise. Tragically, he had delayed inoculating his favorite son Franky, who contracted smallpox and died at the age of 4, leaving Ben with a lifetime of guilt and remorse. Quoting Mr. Franklin's autobiography:

    "In 1736, I lost one of my sons, a fine boy of four years old, by the smallpox . . . I long regretted bitterly, and still regret that I had not given it to him by inoculation. This I mention for the sake of parents who omit that operation, on the supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a child died under it, my example showing that the regret may be the same either way, and that, therefore, the safer should be chosen."

    The vaccine campaign is truly a victim of its own success. It is precisely because vaccines are so effective at preventing illness that we are even discussing whether or not they should be given. Because of vaccines, many of you have never seen a child with polio, tetanus, whooping cough, bacterial meningitis, or even chickenpox, or known a friend or family member whose child died of one of these diseases. Such success can make us complacent or even lazy about vaccinating. But such an attitude, if it becomes widespread, can only lead to tragic results.

    After publication of an unfounded accusation (later retracted) that MMR vaccine caused autism in 1998, many people in Europe chose not to vaccinate their children. As a result of under-immunization, there were large outbreaks of measles, with several deaths from complications of the disease. In 2010 there were more than 3000 cases of whooping cough in California, with nine deaths in children less than six months of age. Again, many of those who contracted the illness (and then passed it on to the infants, who were too young to have been fully vaccinated) had made a conscious decision not to vaccinate.

    We are making you aware of these facts not to scare you or coerce you, but to emphasize the importance of vaccinating your child. We recognize that the choice may be a very emotional one for some parents. We will do everything we can to convince you that vaccinating according to the schedule is the right thing to do. However, should you have doubts, please discuss these with your health care provider in advance of your visit. In some cases, we may alter the schedule to accommodate parental concerns or reservations. Please be advised, however, that delaying or "breaking up the vaccines" to give one or two at a time over two or more visits goes against expert recommendations, and can put your child at risk for serious illness (or even death) and goes against our medical advice as providers at Family Health Care. Such additional visits will require additional co-pays on your part. As medical professionals, we feel very strongly that vaccinating children on schedule with currently available vaccines is absolutely the right thing to do for all children and young adults.

    Thank you for your time in reading this policy, and please feel free to discuss any questions or concerns you may have about vaccines with any one of us.

    Content Source: Acquired and adapted from the Immunization Action Coalition on 17.Jan.2013